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5 Shows like Full House: 90s Families

Roxanne_Sancto_itcher_contributorWhen I think back to the shows that shaped my childhood, many a Looney Tune pops into mind; Fred Flintstone yabba-dabba-dooing on his way home from work or Wile E. Coyote desperately trying to catch the Road Runner again. But it was family TV shows like ‘Full House’ that actually taught me a thing or two about life, as did ‘Family Matters’ and ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” ~ Roxanne Sancto

You Got it, Dude!

OK, so I must admit that there was a reason I started watching ‘Full House’ when I was around seven years old. Nope, it wasn’t the cheesy theme song ‘Everywhere You Look’ that grabbed my attention; nor was it the fact that the family was ruled by three daughters.  It was of course John Stamos, aka Uncle Jesse that made my childish heart flutter. Come on now chicas, admit it – you totally know what I’m talking about.

But other than giving me an opportunity to hang out with my second celebrity crush (the first one was River Phoenix in ‘Stand by Me’), ‘Full House’ also offered a better understanding of what constitutes family – in whatever shape or form. TV series like ‘Full House’ also highlighted how important it is to have close friends and family to get you through life.

Danny Tanner (Bob Saget), suddenly finds himself to be the single father of D.J (Candace Cameron), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and Michelle (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson) when his wife dies in a car accident. Overwhelmed and in dire need of support, his brother-in-law Jesse and his best friend Joey (Dave Coulier) step in to pick up the slack. Think of ‘Full House’ as the TV version of ‘Three Men and a Baby’ – only there are three babies.

‘Full House’ has been re-scheduled as ‘Fuller House’ but if you’d like to revisit more favourite 90s TV families in the meantime, you’re going to have to join me on a trip to the past. Here we go!


Shows Similar to ‘Full House’…

‘Getting By’ (ABC, 1993)

Recently widowed Dolores (Telma Hopkins) is a social worker for the Chicago Department of Welfare. Her colleague Cathy (Cindy Williams), is trying to get over the fact that her husband has dumped her for another woman. Both are looking for a fresh start and when they end up buying the same house, they figure they might as well move in and raise their patchwork family together.

Cathy and Dolores are very different and so are their respective kids. Cathy is a perfectionist who prefers to remain in her comfort zone whereas Dolores is headstrong and impulsive. But after finding a good rhythm in their living situation, they bring out the best in each other.

Merlin Santana and Deon Richmond who played Cathy’s sons Marcus and Darren, were cast following their performance on ‘The Cosby Show’ and went on to appear on ‘Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper’ and ‘The Blues’ after ‘Getting By’.

Similarity Match: 90%
Both ‘Full House’ and ‘Getting By’ focus on unconventional family set ups, but ‘Getting By’ has a stronger focus on cultural diversities.

‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ (NBC, 1990)

So what do you do when your teenage son gets into trouble in your home town of West Philadelphia? You ship him off to live with his upper-class aunt and uncle in Bel Air, that’s what! Will Smith makes his way to Los Angeles with a first class ticket, giving him a little taste of things to come in the Banks household.

Will’s uncle Phil (James Avery) is a no-nonsense kind of man who only wants the best for his wife Vivian (Janet Hubert-Whitten) and his two kids, the preppy, conservative republican Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) and the snobbish, shallow Hilary (Karyn Parsons).

Will’s street wise attitude and his lower-class upbringing tends to clash with the standards set at the Banks’ household, but luckily he quickly finds a kindred spirit in Jazz who is regularly “drop-kicked” out of the house by Phil.

Similarity Match: 85%
The Banks’ family isn’t quite as unique as the ‘Full House’ set up. However, the shows share one major point in common: both TV families support their members unconditionally.

‘Family Matters’ (ABC, 1989)

Whenever I’m cold, I tuck my long-sleeved shirt into my track pants and pull them up way over my navel in tribute to my favourite 90’s nerd, Steve Urkel (Jaleel White).

‘Family Matters’ actually revolves around the Winslow Family: Father and policeman Carl (Reginald Vel Johnson), his wife Harriette (Jo Marie Payton) and their kids Eddie (Darius McCrary) and Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams). When their neighbour kid Steve develops an obsessive crush on Laura, however, he steals the show.

I know it’s impossible not to laugh at Urkel and his crazy antics, but I can’t tell you how many times I felt deeply saddened by the fact that Laura could not look past his appearances and only had eyes for Stefan Urquelle.

Similarity Match: 75%
While the Winslows are made up of a traditional, nuclear family, it’s an outsider (Urkel) who tends to bring them closer together by ways of his eccentricities, much like Joey in ‘Full House’.


If You Like ‘Full House’, You Will Like…

TV series similar to ‘Full House’ are light-hearted and uplifting even though some of them deal with families in the wake of tragedy or divorce. Their plotlines offer the right balance of reality and the idea that life can go back to normal with the help of a solid support system.

If you liked the unconventional family set ups in series like the ones above, you will also enjoy ‘Sabrina , the Teenage Witch’ and ‘Grace Under Fire’.

‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’ (ABC, 1996)

As if being a teenager wasn’t hard enough at times, things get extremely weird for Sabrina when she wakes up on her 16th birthday to discover she’s a witch.

Her two aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), with whom she lives, help her understand her powers and teach her to use them for the greater good.

While ‘Full House’ may have “magical” family moments, they don’t come anywhere close to Sabrina’s powers. Both shows depict that aunts, uncles or good family friends can easily take on mother/father figures.

‘Grace Under Fire’ (ABC, 1993)

As was often the case in the late 80’s and 90’s, ‘Grace Under Fire’ was built around Brett Butler (as Grace Kelly) and parts of her stand-up comedy routines.

The show follows recently divorced and recovering alcoholic, Grace, as she tries to start afresh with her kids Libby (Kaitlin Cullum), Patrick (Dylan and Cole Sprouse) and Quentin (John Paul Steuer and Sam Horrigan), whilst working at a male-dominated oil refinery plant.

Grace is sarcastic and witty and often struggles financially, whereas ‘Full House’ is rather gentler in general. But both families are working on patching things together following major life changes.


Nineties Nostalgia

If these TV shows made you long for nineties fashion, music, slang and haircuts, don’t panic – there are plenty more fun sitcoms depicting cheeky, smart ass teenagers (‘Clarissa Explains it All’) and working-class families trying to make a dime (‘Roseanne’).

Which was your favourite TV family of the nineties?

My name is Roxanne Sancto and I’ll be writing all things music, book and movie related for itcher mag. I also write for New Heroes & Pioneers’ upcoming Festival and Culture magazines, to be launched in the spring of 2014. I am the co-author of The Pink Boots and am currently working on two new novels. I love music, literature, cinema, crafting, yoga and animals.
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